Myth #1: Restoring the estuary would exposes stinky mudflats.
Actually, the north basin of Capitol Lake would remain filled 80 percent of the time. If the estuary were restored, we wouldn’t be trading a beautiful lake for a swamp. When the estuary is restored, there will be clean and healthy water in the basin 80 percent of the time, instead of unhealthy water all the time.
Here’s a quote from the estuary study:
All four restoration alternatives show little to no difference in the amount of submerged or exposed lake bottom. The model predicts that the North Basin, much of the Middle Basin, and the main channel, which would reform quickly after dam removal, would be under water 80% of the time.
Myth #2: If we just cleaned up the Deschutes River, the problems with Capitol Lake would disappear.
The truth is that Capitol Lake’s issues have to do with the shape of the lake itself, not with anything happening in the upper watershed. Restoring the upper watershed is a great idea, but it wouldn’t do much to solve water quality problems in Capitol Lake.
In fact, most of the water quality problems associated with Capitol Lake are actually caused by Capitol Lake. For example, most of the low dissolved oxygen in southern Budd Inlet is caused by the lake and to get rid of all the algae in the summer, the lake would need to be 300 feet deep.
Myth #3: Water quality standards change between an estuary and a lake
The myth goes that so restoring the estuary won’t really clean up water, it will just move the goal posts. Actually, the standards for an estuary and a lake read the same way. The fact is that water quality standards for Budd Inlet are the same as Capitol Lake, and that restoring the estuary will improve water quality.
Here is some legislative testimony from a Department of Ecology staffer that explains how this works.
Myth #4: Capitol Lake was part of the original design for the capitol campus
While impounding the mouth of the Deschutes River was mentioned by the original architects of today’s capitol campus, it was proposed at least twice before, was strongly opposed by local residents for decades and was not thought of as a main part of the campus itself.
The original architects thought of what we now call Capitol Lake as an improvement the local community could make to create a proper setting for the campus.
More information on the history of Capitol Lake can be found here:
Olympia Historical Society: The myth of connection between Wilder and White and Capitol Lake
Myth #5: Salmon wouldn’t benefit from a restored Deschutes Estuary
Even though there is no native run of salmon on the Deschutes River, salmon from all over Puget Sound will see a benefit from a restored Deschutes Estuary. One of the primary functions of estuaries is providing habitat for juvenile salmon that were born in some other watershed.
A recent restoration of the Beachcrest estuary by the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group is a great example of this. While opening the Beachcrest pocket estuary provides minimal spawning habitat, the real benefit is to juvenile salmon, especially those from the nearby Nisqually River.
Recent surveys by the Squaxin Island Tribe show the vast numbers of salmon coming from outside our area that would benefit from a restored Deschutes Estuary.
(January 3, 2012 UPDATE) Myth #6: The Estuary Feasibility Study is not backed by peer-science
The Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study (DEFS) ran from 2003 to 2008. In October 2007, the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Project committee released the Deschutes Independent Technical Review Report (pdf link). The purpose of this report was to “assesses the scientific objectivity and technical merits of the four scientific reports done as part of the Deschutes Estuary Feasibility Study.”
You can take a look at the report yourself, but the peer-review included seven independent researchers combing over all the technical aspects of the estuary studies. While CLIPA calls for “a peer review of just the dredging and capital improvement issues,” the review that has already been conducted included reviews of “Sediment Transport & Hydraulic Modeling” and “Engineering Design and Cost Estimating.” The other areas reviewed are “Reference Estuary Study and Biological Conditions ” and ”Net Benefits Analysis.”